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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:55 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1247
dinwitty wrote:
It looks like its only the overspeed issue from what facts we know.


What does the NTSB mean by their reference to an "over speed condition" ? What exactly are they referring to with that phrase?


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 7:37 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 1:24 am
Posts: 61
Location: Michigan
Ron Travis wrote:
dinwitty wrote:
It looks like its only the overspeed issue from what facts we know.


What does the NTSB mean by their reference to an "over speed condition" ? What exactly are they referring to with that phrase?


It means that the engineer was speeding.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:45 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
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aswright wrote:
Ron Travis wrote:
dinwitty wrote:
It looks like its only the overspeed issue from what facts we know.


What does the NTSB mean by their reference to an "over speed condition" ? What exactly are they referring to with that phrase?


It means that the engineer was speeding.


The NTSB said this:

“• About 6 seconds prior to the derailment, the engineer made a comment regarding an over speed condition.”

So in the context of this comment by the NTSB, it would mean that the engineer realized he was speeding when 6 seconds away from derailing in the curve. That would have been about 700 feet.

So did the engineer realize he was speeding because he was moving too fast to reduce from 80 mph down to 30 mph within that 700 feet?

Or-- did the engineer receive an automatic, system-generated warning indicating that the only problem was that he was exceeding the 79 mph limit by 2-3 mph?

Either scenario would have been an "over speed condition" if all that means is speeding. And he was moving around 81-82 mph when he made the comment about an "over speed condition."


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:39 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
Posts: 19
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Going back to my WABAC Machine, tis accident is eerily similar to the Feb 6, 1951 derailment of PRR train 733 near Woodbridge NJ, on the PA&W Branch between "UNION" (Rahway) and "WC" (Perth Amboy). The train was the Broker, a through train Westward from PRR Jersey City to Bay Head over PRR, CNJ and NY&LB.

Effective 1.01 PM that day, PRR has shifted #2 Track (Westward) to a temporary track a bit West of Woodbridge Station. I believe it was to install a bridge over the NJ Turnpike, then under construction. Track speed on the Branch was 65 MPH, but the shoo-fly had a 5 degree curve with 1 inch of superelevation and a 25 MPH limit. This was the first trip of #733 and its crew after the shoo-fly cutover.

PRR rules did not call for temporary speed signs if a General Order had been published, and this was the case. NY&LB rules did call for temporary speed signs, however.

Most PRR trains to the NY&LB used electric power to South Amboy, then steam to Bay Head, but this train originated at Jersey City and was behind steam all the way. No 733 of that date had K4s 2445 and 11 P70 cars. The track had block signals and cab signals and 2445 had whistle and acknowledger but not train stop or speed control.

The ICC report shows 733 entered the curve at about 50 MPH, spread the rails and derailed with the train following down the embankment onto a road. The engine, tender and cars 1-8 derailed. The fireman was killed, and the rest of the crew were injured. 83 passengers were killed and 345 injured.

The ICC recommended PRR install an automatic train control system where "such system will automatically and continuously enforce a speed restriction..."

PRR did install the ATS and speed control functions to passenger locomotive cab signals (including all GG1's and the E44's when they were built) but civil enforcement was to be well in the future.

Phil Mulligan


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:58 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2015 5:55 pm
Posts: 432
Apparently the engineer and conductor on the head end were trained by an outside for-profit consulting firm, not Amtrak, part of the public-private partnership mania of the last few years:

http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/saf ... -sign.html

Relevant quote:

"Comments Railway Age Contributing Editor Jim Blaze:

“After discussions with several older, experienced qualified locomotive engineers, it would appear that the level of locomotive engineer technical qualification training may have deteriorated, as outsourced, contracted training is replacing what older, experienced railroad hands used to provide.

“Is this a case of safety being too casually contracted-out to a low-cost vendor?

“It used to be that locomotive engineers memorized the details of their routes on which they qualified. They rarely needed ‘signs.’ As one experienced engineer reminded me, ‘All we needed were the signals of the next block ahead. We knew the territory and where we were at all times, even just by the feel of every jiggle or jostle in the track. We knew every break in the rail—switches, facing or trailing point; signals; signs; barking dogs—yes, even their location—and anything else to keep ourselves familiarized with the railroad.’

“In 501’s wreck, where a higher service speed on the rebuilt Point Defiance Bypass route was the objective of a diverse sponsor group, the accident came down to a missed approach sign to the strategic, 50-mph speed reduction required well before the bridge curve.

“This is illogical. How could the engineer have been trained and then certified by anyone as being qualified without this as basic knowledge of his route? Is this the new standard of safety qualification?

“In the search for a root cause, this is possibly a failure at the shared P3 (public-private partnership) strategic level of complex railroad projects for one person to have clearly assumed an ‘I’m in charge’ role to provide high-quality locomotive engineer training. Someone needs to get this straightened out. Who’s going to take charge?”"

My take (and the relevance for preservation): sometimes the old way of doing things, and the maintenance of institutional knowledge, is better.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:25 am 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1247
I can see the point about Amtrak engineers not being adequately trained to know the territory, but in this case, the problem may lie deeper in the engineer’s overall training, experience, and competence.

He has told the NTSB that he knew the location of the curve and planned to begin braking one mile ahead of the curve. But apparently he only knew the location in relation to mileposts and not to landmarks. He knew his location when he passed milepost 17 which was 2.8 miles prior to the curve.

Somehow, he failed to see milepost 18 or the 2-mile warning sign at mile 17.8. Very strangely, the NTSB says nothing about milepost 19, but the engineer apparently failed to see that one as well. If one is not using any other means of counting distance, just an experienced estimate helps.

But this engineer ran 2.8 miles without any lineside marker, and should have expected one at least every mile. He must have been totally relying on lineside markers, but not making the necessary effort to spot them.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 11:48 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 1001
Location: Back in NE Ohio
As a former engineer who was supposedly qualified on over 400 miles of territory, I can tell you that for me it took about six months of regularly operating over a territory before I would begin to feel comfortable in knowing where I was. I like to use this comparison about learning railroad territory for anyone not familiar with the concept: Take your daily commute, or some place you regularly travel. You know basically how to get there. But how well do you really know where you are? Can you name every cross street on your route? Do you know where every traffic light is, the name of it's intersection, how many miles you have traveled at that point, if there are turn light indications as part of that signal? Oh, and as an automobile driver you don't need to know the grade profile of your route like a locomotive engineer does. That is the level of detail it takes an engineer to be truly qualified on a piece of territory.

When I was with CSX, once you were a qualified engineer on your initial territory, which I got six months to learn, they expected you to qualify on additional territory in only five student trips over that territory, including territory that was well over 100 miles long, on a foreign railroad, operating with different rules and signal systems. Then, if you're an extra board engineer, you might only see that territory a few time per year, but be expected to remember everything about it whenever you might be called to operate over it. Oh, and don't think you could lean on a more experienced conductor to help you, odds were very good that your "qualified" conductor off the extra board had less time and experience in that territory than you did. I found it to be more than a little disconcerting, and really hated going to some of those places, like North Jersey, in Shared Assets territory.


Last edited by PaulWWoodring on Wed Jan 31, 2018 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:09 pm 

Joined: Fri May 04, 2012 12:20 pm
Posts: 130
PaulWWoodring wrote:
I found it to be more than a little disconcerting, and really hated going to some of those places, like North Jersey, in Shared Assets territory.

It sounds like you are describing the National Docks branch. (Former Lehigh Valley territory)

Back in my Road Foreman days I had to qualify many engineers on that line.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:19 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 1001
Location: Back in NE Ohio
No, the Lehigh Line from Port Reading Jct. to Newark. It may not be Shared Assets anymore, but CSX does use it to get from Philly to the Hudson line. Fortunately I never had to deal with the National Docks sub.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:36 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:26 pm
Posts: 60
I got the impression that this portion of the 501's schedule is in the dark. I also assume that much of the line is in forested areas. Situational awareness, again. I would think that a person would need a lot more than just one southbound student trip under those conditions. Maybe, the fact that the line was only 14.5 miles long, made it too easy to dismiss the need for adequate number of familiarization runs. Do class 1's have a certain number of training runs (or simulator runs) that must be made in the dark after an adequate number of daylight runs? I believe a certified welder, if he hasn't done a certain weld in the last 6 months, must be recertified on that type of weld. I know that is not the issue in this case, but could be if a person hasn't run a certain route in awhile. I've heard horror stories of new conductors that weren't trained adequately or didn't remember all their training. Or, hadn't done something enough times in various situations to really learn how to do it. In the old days, with 5 man crews and the slow promotion process due to seniority, people had time to learn.
Tom


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:56 pm 

Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:18 pm
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I think we're running into how cognitive you are of your route, this is about training. A discussion with the engineer recounting his moments before the accident can say a lot for training. Apparently the accident happened in a near dawn time, probably everything is lit by the headlight, including signs. My experience is milepost signs are just cement markers at the side of the line not entirely perfectly readable if you were not focused on them. I don't know this line's setup for mileposts but it seems he missed them. At 80 mph they are going by about every 45-50 seconds. One misdirected moment talking to a conductor you might miss the marker. It feels like Towering Infernal again, taking some shortcut steps to save money vs the read deal needed to learn your route. I think about the CTA and their signaling, and this is not PTC, and they have some timed signals for speed. Seems to work everyday as you don't have accidents, lest something really wobbly happens.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 11:19 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
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Regardless of how inadequately the engineer was trained, if he did not know the landmarks and could not spot the mileposts, then he was truly lost, and he had to know he was lost. He also knew that there was a curve ahead that could not be negotiated anywhere near as fast as he was running. Under those conditions, he should have slowed to restricted speed. If he did not know that, the problem goes back further, and is much deeper than just being inadequately trained for this new route.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:45 am 

Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:58 am
Posts: 20
Ron Travis wrote:
Regardless of how inadequately the engineer was trained, if he did not know the landmarks and could not spot the mileposts, then he was truly lost, and he had to know he was lost. He also knew that there was a curve ahead that could not be negotiated anywhere near as fast as he was running. Under those conditions, he should have slowed to restricted speed. If he did not know that, the problem goes back further, and is much deeper than just being inadequately trained for this new route.


From my experience, "He had to know he was lost" is not true.

Fortunately my experience with being unknowingly lost did not lead to an accident, just wasted time.

Brian


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 10:42 am 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
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choodude wrote:
Ron Travis wrote:
Regardless of how inadequately the engineer was trained, if he did not know the landmarks and could not spot the mileposts, then he was truly lost, and he had to know he was lost. He also knew that there was a curve ahead that could not be negotiated anywhere near as fast as he was running. Under those conditions, he should have slowed to restricted speed. If he did not know that, the problem goes back further, and is much deeper than just being inadequately trained for this new route.


From my experience, "He had to know he was lost" is not true.

Fortunately my experience with being unknowingly lost did not lead to an accident, just wasted time.

Brian


If the engineer did not know where he was according to landmarks, and he could not spot the mileposts (as was suggested by someone here), or if he was distracted from spotting the mileposts, then how could he not be lost? And how could he not know he was lost? Part of the job is to be aware of where you are, and to pay enough attention to know if you lose that awareness.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Derailment in Washington State
PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:54 am 

Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2007 3:28 pm
Posts: 62
Location: Florida
Ron Travis wrote:

And how could he not know he was lost?



The engineer is a human and all humans make mistakes. Even some automated systems can misinterpret data and take incorrect actions.


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